The Takeaway: UMass Hands UNH First Loss In OT

Posted by: Nick Canelas

AMHERST, Mass. – Darren Rowe scored on a power play right out of a timeout three minutes, eight seconds into overtime to lift Massachusetts to a 2-1 win over New Hampshire Friday at the Mullins Center. Kevin Goumas was sent off for a minor at the 2:09 mark in overtime for obstruction-interference to give UMass the man-advantage that led to the game-winning goal. Greg Burke scored the lone goal for UNH with 34 seconds remaining in the first period and Conor Sheary tied it 12:21 into the second for his first tally of the year.

Casey DeSmith made a solid 34 saves for UNH, including 13 in a third period which the Minutemen controlled a good portion of. Kevin Boyle made 25 saves on 26 shots faced for UMass, earning him his second win of the season.

The win gives UMass coach John Micheletto his first Hockey East win as head coach while the Wildcats suffer their first loss of the season.

What I Saw

The game-winning goal for UMass was exactly the way Micheletto drew it up out of the timeout. Sheary won the faceoff in the UNH zone and kicked it out to Conor Allen at the point, who fed in close Shane Walsh and found Rowe back door for the easy shot on a wide open net in front of DeSmith. It was a perfectly executed play out of the timeout that the Wildcats overplayed, making it easy for Rowe to slip behind and create a scoring opportunity.

The first two periods where nothing short of a struggle for both sides. Neither side was able to produce many opportunities in close early on in the game, and many of those shots were blocked. This was especially the case throughout a very uneventful first period until Goumas capitalized on what was the Wildcats’ only real scoring opportunity 19 minutes, 26 seconds into the first period on an open-ended opportunity on the right side set up by Goumas. UMass tried throughout the game to generate a rush offensively, especially in the second period, but UNH’s defense continued to hold fort and prevent any real opportunities. The Minutemen controlled the puck for a majority of the frame, but failed to break through for much of the period until 12 minutes, 21 seconds in when UMass finally got the opportunity it was looking for thanks to a beautiful flick pass by Steven Guzzo to send Sheary on the rush for a mini breakaway. Sheary snapped a shot from the right circle past DeSmith to tie the score at one.

Although neither team could really do much from an offensive standpoint throughout, the defensive play was strong. UNH forced UMass to take shots that it wasn’t comfortable taking from far out, and many more opportunities the Minutemen tried to create were simply blocked. Any time UMass looked as if it was going to get close towards the net, there would always be a defenseman there to contain it. However, DeSmith was the Wildcats’ best form of defense in a third period that the Minutemen outshot the opposition 13-8. The sophomore held UMass scoreless in the frame by controlling the rebounds, working the glove and swallowing pucks to prevent any second chance opportunities.

After a solid sophomore campaign last season, Conor Sheary has come out of the gates slow in the first four games, but finally broke through with a solid performance Friday. Not only did Sheary score a big, game-tying goal in the second period, but he was also a perfect seven-for-seven on face offs. It was especially noticeable on a night where  Micheletto made arguably his biggest line shake up of this young season, moving many of his top-two line players to the third and fourth lines, including Michael Pereira, Sheary, Branden Gracel and leading goal-scorer Rocco Carzo. The Minutemen’s top two lines consisted of three freshmen to go along with bottom-two line seniors Kevin Czepiel and Eddie Olczyk.

What I Thought

UMass got taken out of its game a little bit in the first two periods, which is more of a fast-paced style of play where it uses its speed to generate opportunities with the puck, but responded well with strong defense and effective play in goal by Boyle. The Minutemen finally got to their bread and butter in the third period, which showed up in the stat sheet as well as with the quality of shots. While UMass matched UNH well with that defensive struggle in the first two periods, there is no way the Minutemen would win that kind of game if that style of play persisted for an entire 60 minutes. But UMass finally showed that it can not only hang around with the top teams in Hockey East, but it can also pick up wins along the way.

The Wildcats have appeared to take a step back offensively in their last two contests after scoring a combined 22 goals in the first five games, all wins. Since then, UNH has only scored a single goal in its last two games, which have ended in a tie and a loss, respectively. This type of performance from the Wildcats can be looked at from multiple angles. It’s certainly not a good thing when the only reason they were even in this game was because of the play of their goaltender. UNH is showing the inability to pull out wins in the low-scoring affairs based on its performance in the last two games, and certainly can’t rely on DeSmith to get wins. However, it does say something about the abilities of this defensive unit that it can give the team a chance to pick up points despite only scoring one goal in two games.

I thought the discipline shown by both teams throughout regulation was a good sign for both teams and was necessary in such an evenly played game. The 10 combined penalty minutes and clean sheets by both penalty killing units were clear indicators of that. However, the penalty of Goumas in overtime was a backbreaker. UMass was already carrying momentum from a strong third period and an even more impressively played overtime period, but to have to go on the penalty kill at the end of an overtime where the team is already getting outworked is killer, and the Minutemen took full advantage of that. It turned out to be the difference in the outcome of the game because the goal scored by Rowe was one that could have been prevented had their been a fifth guy to prevent the back door pass from being completed.

What They Said

“It’s heartwarming for our guys to get the result they deserve. It hasn’t always been the case, and sometimes because of a few minor things on our point, but tonight I was glad to get the two points mostly for them. You’ve heard me say this in the past: it’s nice to get rewards when you deserve rewards. I think it will be a big reward for our guys and well deserved.” -UMass coach John Micheletto.

“(Micheletto’s) team played well, definitely outplayed us tonight and they deserved to win. We didn’t that’s for sure, especially in the last 10 minutes of the third period we got outcompeted … The only reason we had a chance to win that game was because of our goalie, I told my team that after the game.” -UNH coach Dick Umile.

What They Didn’t Say

Micheletto had no word on whether or not top-line, two-way defenseman Joel Hanley would be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game at Boston College. Hanley missed Friday’s game because of what Micheletto called a generic upper body injury sustained in practice during the week.

What Else You Should Know: 

UMass takes on the Eagles Sunday at 4 p.m. at Conte Forum for the first meeting between the two teams since the Eagles came back from a 3-0 third period deficit to pull out a 5-4 overtime win Oct. 19.

UNH also resumes play at Maine Sunday at 4 p.m. for its first meeting with the Black Bears this season. The Wildcats are looking for their first win since topping Northeastern 4-3 Oct. 26.

 

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